Local charity, the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) recently visited Bishops’ House and Meersbrook Walled Garden with the Sheffield Visually Impaired Walking Group.
This visit was special because it was the launch of some new mobile audio description equipment, which consists of 10 headsets and 1 transmitter. This equipment enables a guide to describe trips and outings to visually impaired people, meaning that someone could be relating the scenery on a walk, the plants in a garden visit, or the surroundings on a trip to a museum.
Ken Dash from Bishops’ House was happy to use the transmitter to describe the house “I spoke into a headset which, after a few minutes, became completely natural.” He went on to describe how it complemented the tour, “You can touch an old house and hear it creak. You can smell the varnish and polish and the dust on the floor, and experience those sensations. All those centuries come through when you walk around and I think the blind group found that too. In fact it was useful to be able to talk to the group while they were walking around and engaging with the building.”
The group also walked from the house to Meersbrook Walled Garden, which includes a Japanese Garden, an orchard, a herb and vegetable garden, where they had another interesting talk and tour with the headsets.
Everyone was delighted with the equipment and Ken Bower, who is blind, commented, “Without a doubt it enhanced my experience of the outing. The voices were very clear and the range was good. I found it useful that the audio headset is only in one ear, as you could still hear other things going on around you and any conversations with friends”
The headsets were sourced by Sheffield Caption Support Group with funding from Sheffield Town Trust. Philip Timms from the group explains, "Last Christmas we managed to hire audio described equipment to be used at a Pantomime at Sheffield City Hall. This enabled 10 blind and partially sighted children to be part of the pantomime. I will never forget the look of surprise and delight on their faces as they experienced the show. After this, I started thinking about how audio described equipment could be used in lots of other venues, museums, art galleries, walks, tours, practically anywhere that people would benefit from hearing details and information on what they are experiencing. This is the reason why I decided our group should approach funders and we are very grateful that they chose to support this project.”
The equipment is now kept at SRSB and will be a great benefit for lots of different groups, adding another element to their participation.